Software writing, 3D printing, hardware hacking and all-round geekery


Idiots guide to Iridium

iridiumThe Iridium satellite constellation is a mesh of low earth orbit satellites that move rapidly across the sky, providing truly global coverage anywhere on the planet. With a suitable satellite modem (like the Iridium 9602) that’s in the RockBLOCK, we can send and receive small amounts of data (a few hundred bytes) to/from your embedded system or computer. Iridium is used widely across many industries, it’s especially salient in military, shipping and logistics applications.

Iridium products work best with a clear view of the sky, but will work in more occluded locations (usually after a few attempts!)

Once you’ve sent a message from your RockBLOCK it will be brought back down to earth, via one of the Iridium Ground Stations. It will then be processed by the Rock 7 core system, which can be configured to automatically dispatch the message to your own web-server or e-mail address, all within a few seconds!

Whilst it’s cool that a Raspberry Pi connected to a RockBLOCK can send messages from your back garden;  it’s really cool when it’s bobbing up and down in the middle of the ocean.

I am by no means an Iridium expert, i’ve been dabbling with the technology (in the form of the RockBLOCK) for the last few years, with great success on both personal and professional projects.

Here are a few key points that i’ve learnt:

  • RockBLOCK != Mobile Phone
  • Iridium is super reliable and works anywhere in the world (its even used by the military)
  • Works best with a good view of the sky (i.e. outside), but will sometimes work inside
  • You are charged based on the amount of data transferred (typically a few pence/cents per 50 bytes sent)
  • By virtue of the above, it’s not possible to send photographs using the RockBLOCK
  • You can send 340 bytes at a time, or receive 270 bytes – so keep your messages short!
  • Messages are not “pushed” to the RockBLOCK you have to request them
  • It’s super simple to use with a Raspberry Pi

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